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A&P Slaps Suit On Produce-Licking Video Rappers

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, August 30, 2007

It was just a video made by a couple of college students, but A&P decided to sue them for a million dollars. Next thing you know, the headlines were everywhere:

One of America’s oldest grocers has sued two college students for licking its produce on YouTube.

Last week, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Company — better known as A&P — slapped a $1 million lawsuit on former employees Mark and Matthew D’Avella, accusing the two YouTubers of defaming the 147-year-old grocery chain in an online rap video called “Produce Paradise.”

According to the suit — filed in New Jersey superior court on August 24 and recently tracked down by an El Reg hack desperate for a good read — the video shows the D’Avella brothers “doing various disparaging and disgusting things” inside the Califon, New Jersey A&P where they worked as shelf stockers before getting the sack six days ago. “At least one customer,” A&P says, is extremely miffed by the video, which has the rappers “licking packaged produce and putting it back on the selling shelf” — among other things.

“This customer, understandably, was disgusted and distressed by the scenes depicted in the video,” the suit reads. “Also understandably, this customer informed A&P that she would not be shopping in its stores in the future owing to the repulsive acts depicted and performed by defendants in the rap video. Given the false and disparaging statements and depictions concerning A&P and its products within the rap video, it is likely that numerous other customers of A&P will have similar reactions.”

Claiming that one of the brothers dons an A&P hat in the video, the grocer has also accused the two of trademark infringement. “[The brothers] are aspiring rap artists whose use of the A&P logo and on the Califon A&P premises in the rap video to promote their rap video, and market their rapping abilities, is likely to cause confusion.”

With their “Produce Paradise” video — available on YouTube as well as their personal website — the D’Avellas spend four minutes and 16 seconds rapping about, well, produce. Billing themselves as the “Fresh Beets,” they lay down rhymes like “Produce. Produce. What you see is what you get, except the cut fruit, now that’s some nasty shit” and “Excuse me sir, where did this grow? Bitch, do I look Mexican, I don’t know.” In addition to licking some fruits and vegetables, they seem to urinate on others. “But don’t come up to me acting all rude because I won’t be afraid to pee in your food,” they chant.

A&P’s suit demands that the D’Avellas remove the video from the web — and fork over $1m and damages. The company seems to ignore the video’s claim that one brother was a two-time employee-of-the-month.

Meanwhile, the suit has ensured that “Produce Paradise” has now been viewed at least 41,000 times. And counting.

That 41,000 number was way up from the 6,000 that it had been seen before news of the lawsuit got out:

The rap never mentions the food chain, but A&P said several lines were “disparaging and disgusting,” including, “it ain’t safe in our produce paradise.” The song also uses an obscenity to describe cut fruit.

The video was posted Aug. 6; the brothers were fired Aug. 23, and the lawsuit was filed Aug. 24 in state Superior Court in Flemington. The lawsuit was first reported Tuesday in the Courier News of Bridgewater.

“Producing a video that intentionally and unjustly depicts our company in a negative light, and utilizing company facilities without management knowledge of the specific content involved, is obviously a blatant violation of our policy,” A&P spokesman Richard De Santa said in a statement.

The brothers worked part time at the store in Califon, near their western New Jersey home in Glen Gardner. Their father is the produce manager.

“This is just crazy that we put so much dedication into the company and they just stab us in the back,” said Matthew, 19.

“We’re making fun of the outlandishness of gangsta rap,” said Matthew, who produced the video in anticipation of submitting it for a class project at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, where he has started his sophomore year majoring in mass communication.

Mark, 22, said he doubted the video, which had been viewed more than 6,000 times on YouTube as of Tuesday afternoon, caused any harm to A&P.

“If they lose any sales, it will be because of the way they treated two students,” said Mark, a junior at the University of Delaware who is majoring in leadership.

The video itself is mostly filled with goofy stuff, but has some clever and some disgusting moments. We finally saw a hat with an A&P logo, but only after the lawsuit pointed it out to us, and even then it is not something we caught in several initial views of the video.

The truth is A&P handed the kids a publicity bonanza, and the D’Avella brothers will probably ride this to fame and fortune. Whatever negative aspects the video has, not one person in a thousand would have associated them with A&P until A&P associated itself by filing a public lawsuit.

Now the college students, who explain “We give new meaning to JERSEY FRESH,” gain sympathy through their blog.

Had A&P handled the situation differently, it would have just gone away. One even wonders if they couldn’t have used the guys. After all, they have worked at A&P for years and their father is an A&P produce manager. They could help attract a younger, more hip clientele.

Yes, though most of the video is just juvenile — the guys hang bananas out of their pants and drop their trousers — some of it, if accurate, would be horrible. Yet it struck us as more of a parody than a documentary. It is unfortunate that A&P in its anger took a step that has led to it being e-mailed around the world.

It certainly won’t make people feel better about eating produce from chain retailers. Among other things:

  1. They claim to urinate on produce whenever they are treated poorly by customers — though they say it is a joke.
  2. They lick some items.
  3. They warn about the fresh-cut fruit, presumably in-store processed.
  4. They say the bathroom is bad news.
  5. They respond with contempt to the idea they should know where things are from.
  6. They show contempt for motivational schemes such as "Employee of the Week"

All pretty disgusting and we are sure not common, but we worked in retail and knew some employees who would do similar things. It is one reason having happy employees at retail is not just a nice thing — it is an important thing. We wonder if A&P sat down with the guys to ascertain how much, if anything, was based on things they observed while working there.

Many times, retail employees are of an age, culture, ethnicity, economic status, etc., very different than their customers. It makes it easy to feel that it is OK to do disgusting things.

Here are the lyrics, but you need to watch the video to get the effect so click “the arrow” on the video:

[Intro]

Drop the beat. Oooo Yeah. Your boy Razor Blade.
Double D up next. Whatchya got baby?

[Double D]

We got the veggies to boot, salad to celery root
This is the produce paradise here goes our salute
The Fresh Beets baby ya know what I mean
Supplying the highest quality of every green
If you want oranges or apples that’s what we got
From sour to mild peppers or even real hot
But don’t come up to me acting all rude
Because I won’t be afraid to pee in your food
Don’t be scarred child I’m only teasin’
Unlike our fruit my body’s always in season
Supplying organic, rabe or just plain broccoli
Some may say I don’t give a shit-ake (mushroom)
But I’ll tell ya what, its realer than real
If you want to prepare a heart healthy meal

[Chorus]

It’s all about the…
Produce, Produce we don’t like to kid
It’s lower middle portion of the food pyramid
Produce, Produce what you see is what ya get
Except the cut fruit, now that’s some nasty shit

I said it’s all about the…
Produce, Produce we don’t like to kid
It’s lower middle portion of the food pyramid
Produce, Produce what you see is what ya get
Take a deep breath in cuz baby this is it.

[Razor Blade]

Prepare to be squashed!
They call me Razor Blade cause I cut veggies with precision and skill
Cut the roots off arugala, Italian parsley, and sometimes dill
I’m the most talented wrapper if ya know what I mean
I’ll cut you in two and then saran wrap your spleen
Excuse me sir where did this grow?
Bitch do I look Mexican, I don’t know!
Our fruit comes in all shapes and sizes
Extra large bananas, I know what mine is
Endive, escarole, chard and leek
You’re looking at a two time employee of the week
But I don’t do this for the girls I’m takin
Without produce a BLT is just bacon
When fruit goes bad we pray and mourn
Our produce display gets more views that Charlie the Unicorn
And we want more than the History of Dance
And to do it we just gotta take off our pants…

(Crickets)

[Chorus x2]

[Double D]

P to the R-O-D-U-C-E
The produce department is where ya find me
I got the worst cold cuz my rhymes are sick
I open and close packages just for a lick (real quick)
I got the best hands baby that’s true
I sway the ladies over with the vegetable stew
I would say honeydew this honeydew that
But I cantelope cuz girls don’t like guys that are phat
Our scallions are the freshest no need to dwell
Got these people saying no quiero Taco Bell
And if your in the store about to drop a two
The downstairs bathroom aint good for you
Now stick with your gut, take some advice
It ain’t safe in our produce paradise

[Chorus x2]

We wish the boys hadn’t made the video. But A&P was ill-advised in its response. Sometimes the best solution is to laugh things off.

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